After winning 60 percent of the vote in the June primary, the race continues for San Diego Unified School Board District E candidate LaShae Collins.

Collins and opponent Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, now the subdistrict’s interim representative, will face off in a citywide election in November despite Collins’ success in the June primary among District E voters.

Collins sat down for an informal conversation at Politifest to discuss school issues and her candidacy for District E. Whitehurst-Payne was invited but did not attend. District E represents the southeastern part of San Diego. There are 45 schools in the subdistrict, ranging from elementary to high school.

The winner of the District E election will not only represent their own district, but will have a say in issues across the district.

Here is a look at topics that came up in Saturday’s conversation with Collins.

What Collins Would Bring (and Push For) On the Job

Collins is a mother of two children who attend schools in the San Diego Unified School District. She said she wants her children to have the same experience she did growing up.

“I truly believe I can be the person to really effect change and make sure that our school board is going to do everything they can to be transparent to our community,” Collins said.

She said she’ll continue to be a voice and advocate for quality education in all three clusters if she’s elected.

All three District E clusters Lincoln, Morse and Crawford, have their own issues that must be addressed, she said.

Collins, who works for state Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, believes that experience gives her the ability to view the state and local education system holistically and address issues at a deeper level.

If elected, Collins said she’d push to ensure parents know about services that are available to their children.

She’d also like to see schools remain be open on weekends and to encourage schools to introduce programs to allow for more parent involvement.

“Parents need to feel as if they are being heard and that someone on that board really truly cares about the outcome of our overall student achievement,” Collins said.

Eyes on Lincoln High

Born and raised in San Diego, Collins graduated from District E’s Lincoln High. Her parents did too.

As a Lincoln High alumna, Collins believes she can provide her past experiences and knowledge of Lincoln High to help improve its reputation.

Whereas Whitehurst-Payne grew up in Virginia and does not have the same connection to the subdistrict.

“I am from the community, for the community, understand the community and have kids that are in the community,” she said.

Attention on Lincoln High grew after a police altercation with a student that took place last school year.

The incident increased attention on Lincoln High after the student was allowed to return to school this year.

Collins argued that the focus should be on all the schools and a variety of issues positive and negative.

She acknowledged there’s a lot of work to do to get back what the school used to have when she attended.

Back when Collins was a student at Lincoln, she said administration and teachers listened to the students and there was a sense of family and spirit.

Yet she was optimistic about improving the school’s reputation.

“One thing missing is the history factor such as trophies and banners,” she said. “Students will be to gain an understanding of why their parents and grandparents attended Lincoln.”

On Learning From Charter Schools

There are seven charter schools in District E, which are funded by the state of California and receive their own federal funding.

As charter schools continue to expand, Collins said the issue is that the district is being affected due to a decrease in student attendance.

“They are fine,” Collins said. “One thing I keep reminding people that charter schools are public schools.”

If charter schools are thriving, she said she does not understand why the district cannot apply their most successful strategies in San Diego Unified schools.

“I am very much supportive of a school that is of quality that is about truly educating our students,” she said.

Collins addressed that she is not a fan of comparing traditional schools and charter schools, but is a fan of quality schools that will produce students achieving at the highest level.

Though she did not compare the two types, she said she needs traditional schools to get back on track.

Both her children attended traditional schools and she was unsatisfied with the education they were receiving, so she moved them to charter schools.

She said she feels they are receiving the education she desires now, but they were not at first.

“You have to open up to the community and bring it back to a community school, as a family school and be family oriented,” she said.

How to Help Students Falling Behind

An issue facing the district are students arriving to high school reading at an elementary level. The blame is being pointed to middle schools and then to elementary schools.

“We need to know why is it that our kids are transitioning from elementary to middle school to high school and they are still not meeting the standards,” Collins said.

She admitted that there are students entering various grades who are a few years behind.

Collins explained her job would be to get all her colleagues in line with her, and approach her superintendent to figure out why students are falling behind.

She said it is important to make sure schools have enough resources and class spaces for all students.

Schools can bring teacher’s assistants into the classroom or provide school programs from the funds they receive she added.

Collins said there are questions that need answers about additional funding in order to close the achievement gap.

“Where is this money going? What types of programs and services are we paying for? Is it going to the low income communities? How is it being broken out to ensure that we can exceed and excel throughout the entire district,” she said.

In order to improve the education of students, Collins said it is all about quality of leadership, teaching, and challenging curriculum.

This post was written by a student in San Diego State University’s School of Journalism & Media Studies who’s...

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